ajagunna

I discuss Nigeria and the world at large because I strongly believe MyOpinionCounts!

Category: LiterarySaturday (LS)

!SiDoS Slams For Girls in Münster Germany

This is For Every Girl Fighting The System

dunni

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Master student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

It was the end of the school term
I accompained my mum to my brother’s school
I was four years old
My brother was nine
The three best students for each class were always selected
And prizes awarded amidst claps and encomium
It was the turn of his class
He came second
A girl came first
I was glad, I was proud of him
I clapped so hard my hands began to hurt
My mum wore her pride like a peacock
And marched out with him to receive his prize
But her face was marked with lines of unsatisfaction
Well, must it be because the first position was snatched out of his hands?
I questioned myself
Every parent wants her child to be the best

On our way back home
My mum said to my brother
Congratulations, you did well
But a girl beat you to the first position
A girl
You shouldn’t let that happen next term.
Whats wrong in being a girl?
My four years old brain pondered
Why cannot a girl be the overall best
In an egalitarian society,
My mum would have said
Congratulations my son, you did well
But second place is not the best
Try harder next term
I am proud of your achievement

My mum bought me every kind of dresses
Puffed shoulder, wide- lacy-frilly skirts
But I envied my brother’s trousers and t-shirts
All I wanted was simple t-shirts and trousers
Why couldn’t I have clothes like him
I wailed at my mother
Because you are a girl
She responded
And girls should not wear what belong to boys
I hung my head in despair
Pondering on this argument
Why make this much effort for someone who don’t want it
Well, you don’t have a say in this, she smirked at me
So I wore my dresses and pranced about in my girly shoes
Cussing at my life for being a girl

Visiting the tailor was another scary day
My mum and I always came home mad at each other
I had to make my pick out of the feminine collection
I was always very quick to choose the simple dresses
Can we go now mum
I would say to her
Oh, so quick
She would stare over my head asking me to show her my choice
Well, here it is
I would fume at her
Why not this? She would say
Why that? I would reply
At least now, you can’t question my choice
It’s still from the freaking female catalogue
So can I have my deserved space
I would glare back at her

I enjoyed playing football with my brother and male cousins
Running, jumping and screaming to high heaven
Oh, the scent of freedom and liberty
But my mother wasn’t having any of it
It was all good at the beginning
She didn’t care too much
But whenever an errand needed to be done
It was me who had to go
What a heavy burden
The boys continued with their football
While I quickly went on the errand, returning to join in screaming
One day, the football had to stop
Why?!
Because you are a girl!
You shouldn’t be jumping around!
You are beginning to grow boobs!
Wow!
I hate my boobs then!
And would like to cut it out if given the choice
I bared my teeth at her
But then I found a way around her
Whenever she wasn’t home
I joined them
But my long dresses wasn’t made for the sharp turns and twists of football
Often, the ball got buried in my yards of skirts
We had to dig through to find it
But my cousins were super nice
So we came up with a plan
I had to be the goal keeper
Both team wanted me even if I sucked at it
Because my wide skirt did the job of fending off the ball
That’s quite smart right?
Hell yeah
My team always won
My skirts did a very good job
The moment we heard my mother’s car horn
I scrammed into the house
Wiping off my sweat and trying to stabilize my breathing
To get caught was to be flogged
And lectured on the proper way of being a girl for days

Sunday was the Lord’s Day
It was another day to spell out your gender codes of conduct
The pastor was the police
The bible was the constitution
It was a predictable service
I’ve heard it countless times I could become a pastor
Woman, be submissive
Learn how to please your man
Be quiet when he is angry
Give him food when he is hungry
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach
For a submissive woman is a woman after God’s own heart
I would dose off mid speech
Waiting for the service to end
So we could go home to eat rice
One Sunday,
My mum said
I don’t want you to sit in the front pew any longer
Well, I don’t care wherever I sat
I would rather stay home
If I had a choice
The back pew would be more comfortable for my sleeping session
But out of curiosity, I asked her why
She said I was disrupting the church with my negative rebellious energy
Well, if your pastor was making sense
Perhaps, you won’t be staring at me during the service
Trying to pin down what energy my body was emitting
I grumbled under my breath

I was always the best in school
I was smart
I had no competition
My report sheet was predictable
Intelligent but rude
The intelligent part always got my mother so proud
But she would shake her head and beg God to change me
I could understand her though
I had one flaw
I was a girl
And girls shouldn’t be considered rude
They shouldn’t have a cause to fight for
They shouldn’t talk back to people
No no no, they shouldn’t even have opinions
I would laugh at her and run into my room
Screaming,
You don’t have to be worried for me mother, I don’t want to be married either

The more I aged,
The more my femaleness became hell for me
So I distanced myself from anything considered feminine
I didn’t want my brother’s penis either
So no, I had no penis envy
I just wanted to do things everyone labeled boyish
And also liked the benefits that came with having a penis
I would sit with my legs wide apart
Strut around like a peacock
Pick up fights with boys in school and on the street
I was tough
I was assertive
And I dared anyone to correct me
So everyone called me a tomboy
And I began to wear the label with pride
Because it meant being different from other girls
It meant power, authority, intelligence and superiority
It meant being able to wine and dine with boys on the same table

But then as I began to put things into perspectives
I realised the problem wasn’t me
The problem was the society and its perception of the female body
I realised being called a tomboy shouldn’t be a label I should wear with pride
I realised whenever I talked, men listened
But whenever another feminine girl talked, she was always shrugged off
I realised there is language and there is language
The difference between the two is how you wield it
I realised that whenever I wrote articles and responded to comments
People always assumed I was male
I always took great joy in telling them I was a girl
Then they would ask again to be sure
Are you sure you are a girl?
And I would puff out my chest in great pride
But then, I stopped smiling whenever my guy friends said
We don’t see you as a girl anymore. You are now part of us.
You belong to the guy club. We can’t date you.
So I would say: No, I am a girl. A girl who doesn’t want to be a boy either
You don’t get to mutilate my female body to consider me equal

This is it: I ran away from my life. The problem
I didn’t run from my female parts. The physical me.
The problem is this: We raise girls to be different from boys
Now, I still love to wear big t-shirts and trousers
And there are days I like to wear dresses and paint my face
It dawn on me that the dresses are not the problem
The problem is the baggage attached to the dresses
The problem is being taught hours hours unend how to rightly be a girl
Investing so much effort in teaching to live life as the inferior gender
Talks like: Keep your virginity. It’s a big price to pay for
Don’t have multiple sex partners or you would be considered a slut
Let a man decide for you what he wants or he might get turned off
For the big price, why don’t you go sell me in the market then?!
Meanwhile, the boy child is left off the hook
He doesn’t need to be taught these things
Only the wings of the girl child must daily be clipped
For the unfortunate reason that she is a girl and must fit the norm

So I reclaim the female parts!
I take great pride in the boobs and vagina!
I love big t-shirts and sweaters!
My favorite color is blue!
I do whatever I want without giving it much thought!

I sit and ask:
What if I was super feminine and liked frilly dresses, and stylish hairdos?
Would I still be taken seriously? Wouldn’t I always have to prove my worth as female?
Why can’t girls be happily girly without their femininity attached to inferiority?
Isn’t this why boys stay miles away from anything labeled feminine?
These asymmetrical relations, that can be traced to no beginning! Will it ever end?

I will say this:
A culture that weighs down a woman to feed the ego of a man is bad!
I am a woman. I sit on the same table with you. As a woman!
I have boobs and vagina! And I will behave whichever way I want!
I will be feminine! And masculine. I will be whatever I want to be!

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Ola Dunni of !SiDoS Slams for Girls in Münster Germany in a Spoken Words/Poem Event titled “Kunst gegen Bares”

the water-walk

We rolled tyres in sheer abandonment, in company of children from i-don’t-know-where. Only the moment mattered, we were happy to be alive. We sang. Songs we never knew how they came to be. We heard them sung and we joined in, they became part of us, and never left us. Whenever I sing, I remember my childhood, and my growing up is brought back to me. Hear me sing of three children accosted and abused by a soja.

Awa meta lanlo. Loju titi. Apade soja. Oni awawe. Alawa o we mo o. Ofowa leti. Eti mi o. Eti mi o. Bisi ba mgbeyo. Oko Bose.

Songs accompanied our daily living. The song of three children accosted and abused by a soja accompanied us once we were out in search of water. We sang as loud as we could. One late afternoon.

We went through a narrow path. Mechanics littered the path, it was their workshop. Hot silencers. Firewood. Charcoal. Burnt metal. Thick air. Master called to Apprentice. Apprentice ran over with the Master’s bidding. Fearing for no apparent reason. Hoping he brought the right tools.

We walked past them, and there in a corner sat men. Not too far away were women, mothers and wives, babies strapped to their backs, bare-chested girls, wrapper-tying women, two or three plaiting hair, talking away the hot afternoon while the day gave way for the arrival of the night.

And the sitting men. They played ayo-olopon. One of the men lived in our house. was one of them. His wife complained about him. He would not look for work, how would a man not look for work!?

We came to a wider road with open gutters. Buckets and bowls dangling. We carried no water yet. My small bowl in my hands had its back to my stomach. The journey was just about to start.

We went past The Photographer’s shop. I peeped. The doors were open, but the curtain shot out outsiders. One or twice we had come to the studio. The Photographer took us family shots. Sometimes he came to our house, into our room, and took us shots. Mother would have arranged his coming, so that hours before he came, we would be busy wearing clothes, choosing and unchoosing our best of clothes. Sunday clothes. Occasion clothes. Or just Readymade. His arrival often met us unfinished, unprepared for the shooting.

I remember one of the photographs, very cute it turned out to be. Mother sat on the blue chair, the chair was placed so the window could be seen, my sister stood beside the chair to the right, my brother to the left, and I stood in front of my brother. I wore my cherished somodobo and a t-shirt. My lovely t-shirt. My red canvas from Bata. My sister wore her gown of evening dreamlike pink, somewhere around the waist a small bag. Mother was in her best, the headtie covered the jerrycurl in part. My brother’s t-shirt was with yellow stripes.

We were instructed to smile. The Photographer could have spared us this instruction. It made it harder to get the smile out of our happy faces. We smiled but before the click of the camera happened, the smiles fled our faces, too scared to withstand the camera-click. When the picture was brought, my brother had his lips supressing a smile. When we knew the picture was to be sent to Daddy, we dotted more on it, it became one of our most treasured possessions.

We went past The Photographer and joined a tarred road. On the road we were joined by other water-searchers. They in their group. We in our group. We talked in our group, and they talked to each other. Then we increased our pace, wanting to outwalk each other. When the walking gave neither group an edge, we ran until we scattered. At the end of the road, we branched into Mr. Jerry’s street. We had been told there was water there. The queue was long.

We heard screams. I came before you. It’s a big lie. You cheat. You liar. Get out. Get in. Leave my bowl alone. No I will not. A fight broke out. Solidarity. Peacemakers. Onlookers. Laughter. And more laughter. The queue moved a little. The fighters finished their fight, and brought back their bowls, and we moved back to where we were.

After the fight. Then the talks. Bad water. The water we fetched was contaminated. We must boil it before we drink. Or not drink it at all. We could bathe with it, wash our clothes and cook. We would boil it before we cook. THe boiled water in the orange bucket back home began to make sense. Mother had boiled water and instructed us not to come near it. It’s very hot. If you do, you will be burnt. Stay away. Mother must gave heard the contaminated water-talk.

It was our turn. We fetched water. The sun had retired for the day, cool breeze blew out the heat, walking us back home as cold water fell in lumps. We made to balance our walk and the water on our heads.

Walk gently. You. If not. You will get home only with empty bowl. You. You will not come with us tomorrow. You. You don’t hear word. See. You. You are running. That’s why the whole water is pouring away. Take it easy. You. You see. You have just wasted a whole day’s queue.

We walked past the roads and their many people. Before we knew it, we were home.

LiterarySaturday (LS): The Seizures

cricket-clip-art-cricket-clip-art-8I saw things, many things. Only me saw them. When I was a child. I thought they would go away all by themselves. With time. I was wrong. They kept coming back. Let me start with a magic. I will then tell you of my seizures. Only about my seizures. There was a game we played on any flat surface, with four stones or any other objects so small. So, it happened one stone fell and rolled under the bed. What I did surprised me: I wished the stone back to the flat surface, and it happened! I was still unsure if I performed a magic when mother’s money dropped on the floor. “Oh! My money just fell”, she said. Confident I could get back her money, I applied my magic formular, and it worked! “How did you do it?”, she wanted to know.”I only wished the money back into your palms, and it worked!”, I told her. Later I could understand my magic power. I could see things people around me did not see, there were times I visualised within me a particular moment, and just like that I saw it before me in the fullness of time.

I used to have seizures; my breathing has been bad since I was a child. Before every terrible moment when I got thrown here and there as is wont for a fistful rage, I saw it coming, only that I could not help myself. I saw animals and insects. There was a time I saw a pig; that was the last time I saw one before a seizure. Almost all the times I used to see a cricket, then one cricket became two, two three, and four, and five, then a crowd. Before I could say jack, I was foaming from the mouth. It was that bad. The crickets terrified me with their noise.

There were times I passed out, only to be revived when I heard mother’s cry; those were times when the agony of a mother brought me back. I am not sure I knew what agony was then, only that I did see mother dressed in rags, ashes on head, crying out her eyes to have me come back to her. On one side were beautiful children, smiling, almost jubilant, that they saw me, on the other side was mother in her condition. It often happened that the jubilant children became angry whenever I was not allowed to join them. “See, your mother is crying. Go back to her, you are not a wicked child. Or are you?“. Then against my will, and against the wishes of the spirit children, a force much powerful than my body brought me back to life.

One time like that, it was Yeye who brought me back. I had by then mastered the pattern. I was bent on joining the children no matter what. I saw mother crying. I cared less. I had seen before this seizure this would happen, so that I fortified myself against being impressed. Another plus for my decision, the force which always begged me to return was not present. While mother sorrowed to convince me on her own to come back, I was far gone into the world of the spirit children; our joy was beyond jubilant, I could not describe it. We went past gates. More gates opened to us. We strode on in pride; my own pride knew no bound because I was carried in a chair. Our path was lined with beautiful trees, some gave us shades and others fruits, there were flowers and butterflies of varying colours; their fragile wings were a wonder to behold. I bet no one would have wished not to carry on. I did not care anymore. It was not until I woke in mother’s arm I realised I did not make it this time around too. Of course I did not tell mother what happened. I was still in shock that I did not wake up where I had visualized before the seizure.

It was when she told me of Yeye’s exploit on reviving me it became clear who hindered my success. Mother’s eyes were pale and red from crying, she looked tired and worn out. I hate to see her this miserable. “I will leave you to rest a little now that you are out of danger, let me go prepare what Yeye instructed so you can eat. Close your eyes, no fears, ok? I will not be gone for long”. I wondered what she wanted to cook, I did not ask. I smiled at her love. It was a faint smile. She smiled back, and I saw love.

That was in the village. That night when I slept, I saw what shall happen when we return to Lagos, I saw mother was going to take me somewhere. For deliverance, I concluded. And she did. What I did not see was the detail of what shall happen on our  way to the Celestial Church of Christ. Allow me tell in brief what happened on the way. I am sure that is why I could not see it while I slept that night. Everything worked together for good, at least for mother; reason being that if I had seen this I would have wished away this Celestial Church visit. And I am sure mother would have been disuaded if I wished it!

Well, to cut it short, the journey was beyond rough, the molue that took us was overfilled, the passengers were most unfriendly, the conductor was a horrible being, he seized the slippers of a passenger who paid him half the fare and cursed him as he pushed him off the bus. He then threw the slippers out the window down the bridge, when the passenger was well out of sight. Almost immediately he picked a fight with another passenger. “You better pay in your own interest.” “And what will you do if I don’t?” The passenger was about to call the conductor bastard in another sentence when his own word stuck in his mouth. The conductor had responded to the first question; the response was short and weighty. “Kill you, of course”.

The whole exchange had been in Yoruba. The countenance of the conductor betrayed no joke. There was a brief silence in the bus, then like one fighting to stay alive, the passenger was unstoppable, he shouted at the top of his voice, he bragged and bragged that the conductor could do him nothing! “Thirteen of you are not enough to do me anything. Who are you, bastard!?” He finally used the b-word. His rage was unendable, but looking beyond his wild outburst, I saw a shigidi who insisted on being thrown into his own death; I knew he feared for his life. All through, the conductor answered nothing and he did not threaten to throw him out. It was at the last busstop we realised the conductor indeed meant to kill him. I only saw the cutlass the driver removed from underneath his seat, he charged at the man, the conductor held him because he struggled to escape. Mother walked faster while she dragged me along with instruction not to look back. We only heard shout of oroooo! and yeeeee! and many indistinct voices shouting haaaaa! o ma fe pa looto ni ke! Mother took a bend and the Celestial Church of Christ was in sight. It was just like I had seen it on that night.

“Madam, don’t worry. The word of the lord will safe your child. I have been assured he shall see them no more! For behold, these Egyptians you shall see no more!”. I was wondering what he meant, mother kept saying amen, the prophet’s voice grew louder and bolder, as if encouraged by mother’s amen. He looked me in the eyes and repeated what he had said. Right there I concluded he was a charlatan. I almost wished mother and me out of his presence. “I have prepared water. Here is sponge. This soap is special. Bathe him with it there”. He pointed to a bathroom. “Come back for more prayers. It is well with you both.” His voice was louder than I could bear. I began to cry. I was almost wishing for another seizure. Mother did as instructed. Thereafter we set out for home. It was a long day.

I was sure I will be seeing crickets again. I told mother what came to my mind, “I will be seeing crickets again, very soon.” “What?” “Wait and see. That prophet. Throw away the soap. I don’t like it.” I hoped she made no sense of what I said. Before long I was asleep on her laps. cricket-clip-art-cricket-clip-art-8

MayDay…BlahBlahBlah!…Raw Potatoe…!

MayDay is good. 24 hours to live my life my way. Holiday. And I did. My two daughters learned to ride bicycles, my son drove his scooters, screaming like an excited overfed puppy behind their back. I love him like kilode! And he knows too. He is my Number One Fan. For real. I busied me with my new hobby, photography. I will photogist you of my new-found love very soon.

See the joys of fatherhood as I see them make those bold moves, pressing hard to pedal to emancipation. If I had them where girls who ride bicycles at their age must have mothers, who tell them to close their legs because they are girls, I would never be happy with myself. This is my message to my girls as they daily live their lives: See, hapiness is doing what makes you happy. So be happy!

The last time I took them to Mass, I needed to ask the priest to forgive my foolishness. Ibukun was more than loud. She ran everywhere, the Mass held amidst the chaos and the priest mumbled words I can never remember. I don’t even know why I took them there. She had protested she never wanted to be part of my old life that has refused to let me be. It was like she threw back my own injunction at me: Pa, if Mass makes you happy, go there, I have every right to shout in Mass because I had never wanted to be part of it anyway.

This girl will not kill me! Hehn! New discovery: She is not a vegetarian. I would bet she’ll never be. Each time I munch my leaves, she reminds me emphatically how strongly she detests salad like leprosy. ‘Child, I never wanted you to be anyway. Thanks for being what I wanted in a girlchild: BEING YOU!’

Twenty years ago. Nawarudeen Primary School. Ijoko-Ota. On an open field, I rode a bicycle for the first time. I had thought Bro Tope still got my back. Long before I realized he left me alone, I was pedaling as fast as I never could imagine. Yay! My joy knew no bound. I have never stopped riding since. Rest in peace, Bro Tope.

For years, I and two best friends stole water money to rent BMX bicycles. Five naira for a thirty munute bike-rental ride would become two hours of riding around because we were scared like shit to return for fear of loosing shoes as fine for our foolishness.

‘But why do they make shit here?’ That was my son asking to know what rights have the bird to dirty our street. ‘Look, this tree houses the birds. You know they live up there. They do nothing wrong to empty their bowels under this tree. Only dogs are not allowed to do that. We once talked about naughty dog owners who would not clean-up their friends’ shit, you remember?’

I am a happy man. Finally, I can live forever in peace! My children care about animals, their environment and all that etc. The other time I heard Ibukun warned my other daughter never to scare rabbits again. I was all smile. I love those beautiful creatures gaan gidi.

If I see paradise, I know. Here in Dortmund, birds don’t run too far away from you because they know you wont stone them to death. Few days ago, two rabbits hopped few centimeters from me to allow me pass, then they returned back to continue their play. One jumped forward, the other jumped after him, and on and on they jumped till I lost sight of them. I suppose they know about sugarcandy mountain.

I have told few people of sugarcandy mountain. Now I will tell you all so you know what and where that place is: This is where animals go when they die, an afterlife paradise for these helpless creatures and friends. How do I know? Yeah, it was a day like that when I saw too animals, a dog and a tortoise, they talked and I overheard their sadness.

They were in doubt as to where their end shall be. I did not know how to comfort them, but a squirrel came to the rescue. She had just returned from a journey where the air tells you of things to come, so she knew what she was talking about. The wind had told her about the no-more sorrow palace where the souls of dead kins(wo)men go when they leave us. For real, words could not express the joy like a river I glimpsed on the faces of both animals.

Like now, I take my time to tell anyone who cares why I love flowers so much. I do because I do! Like cooking, they literarily saved my life two years ago.

Imagine this: You have prepared that same Eba the wrong way all your life! One day you cooked her right, then Eba, knowing what you have done, sprang to her feet, looked you in the eyes, kissed you real hard, and tell you to your face: Thank you Dear for doing me right! For once! I hope we do this again.

Meanwhile you did not know you have been in the wrong all your life. It wasn’t your fault, but neither was it Eba’s fault either. She never could talk until that moment. Would you have forgotten that?! I bet you never will!

The same way I was forgiven by a flower who opened my window one morning like that, she never minded I lived on the tenth floor of a skyscaper, walked right into my life and declared: I forgive you for ignoring me this long! I love you. Henceforth, live this life as if I only mattered to you. I fell in love with this new kind of kindness on the spot!

If you know a man who threatened to eat raw potatoe because a woman did not return his love, don’t ignore him. Help him pill the thing, cook it, add salt, if you have oil, add it too. If there is time, watch him eat your love or feed him while you wipe his tears. Your warmth will do him good. Good men deserve good love.

Durotimi, Asa’s Handbag and More

Asa's Handbag

Asa’s Handbag

Durotimi complained each time Asa sent him to get something in her handbag. He will gladly go anywhere without blinking an eye except an errand to go search a place of unending chaos. He simply did not know where to start. He complained only to himself though, not even once to Asa. She has sent him again to bring something in her handbag- Her purse. He left at once to get it.

It was not difficult to locate the handbag. It was on the bed. He set out to look for the purse. He looked into every compartment of the handbag. When he could not find the purse, he knew he had searched too hurriedly. He must take his time to locate the purse. If she said it was in the handbag, then in the handbag it must be!

He saw a banana on the cupboard. He peeled and swallowed it in a bite. The hurried search had left him without strength. It must be that he had been hungry before the search. He would have eaten anything edible he saw first. The banana left him hungrier. The task at hand was more important than the thought of his hunger. The purse he must search for; and that in the handbag.

He removed the trinket box and powder. Asa carried them permanently around. To remove them, he removed a bunch of necklace. The necklace was one of Asa’s favorites. He called it bunch because that exactly was what it was; joined together like a cobweb. He could figure out easily neither its beginning nor its end. The tangle would daunt anyone.

He had run into the necklace unknowingly. He would have been more careful if he knew. Having bumped into it, there was only an option left: to entangle his hands. He had wanted to continue without bringing out the necklace. It was frustratingly difficult. So, he did. He breathed relief.

He placed it gently on a spot. The necklace must not appear disturbed because he had touched it. He did not want to search, worrying the necklace was nonchalantly handled. Asa could come in while he searched. He had just saved himself imagining her face when she saw the necklace carelessly dropped on the floor. He had been in a sort of war with his thought over the handling of the necklace.

His fingers touched something like a purse. He sighed; relieved because he thought he had it.

It was a purse but not the purse. She had sent him to get the purse in which she kept her bus-ticket and many identity cards. Heaven knows if she discovered he touched the money-purse, it would not be lightly taken. He rebuked himself for being so foolhardy. He was about to stir a beehive.

All the while he sweated. Real hard. On one hand, frustrated he was not getting positively far with the search. On the other, he pitied himself already in view of a negative outcome at the end of the search. ‘I just don’t want to think about it’, he gave voice to his thought., unconsciously. He was confused.

In truth, he had no reason to think Asa would do anything silly. As if she knew he sometimes saw her in such unfriendly light, she had told him severally not to make her a monster.

He stumbled over an envelope. It was bulgy; loosely closed at the mouth. It showed Asa was not in a hurry when she closed the envelope; she probably cared a little less when she placed it in. He opened it. Used nose wipes. He was slightly irritated. Under a heavy breathe, he began a sentence with ‘but’. ‘But I have told her severally to throw away these tissues once used! My goodness!’ Then he remembered she disagreed each time he suggested that.

She kept a separate envelope for used wipes. When full she disposed it. Then replaced it. She believed she would keep the environment clean that way. She even advised he adopt her style. He disagreed. He added with sarcastic emphasis, ‘I will not only keep an envelope, I will keep a gorodom’. She did not hear him well. She asked what he meant. He told her of the saliva-gorodom.

‘A friend told me.’, he began. ‘Since then I did not forget. In that part of the country, gorodom was provided at reasonable distance, so that those thickly craved balls of phlegm could be spat into them. Once, a man spat phlegm into a gorodom. The phlegm almost tilted the content of the gorodom, so he smartly retrieved it with the tip of his tongue. He rescued his phlegm!’

Asa finally got the point. Her anger doubled. He had not only made a bad joke, but succeeded in ruining her day. She could not eat that day. It angered her more that he was not sorry, rather laughed hysterically, shaking heavily from side to side. While he searched the handbag, he replayed the scene in his head. A smile plastered his lip. Slowly, the smile gave way to a wider smile. The wider smile succumbed to a bigger one. Until he began to laugh.

He heard a sound. The laughter stopped. Abruptly. He listened keenly to the source and if it would come again. He thought it was a footstep. He listened hard. A breeze. He looked to ensure it was not Asa. He listened harder. He heard it clearly now.

The rats refused to die. Not even his rat-poison could kill them. They must have developed poison-immunity, because he doubled the portion to increase potency. If it ever worked for neighbors, it clearly did not work for Durotimi. The population of the rat only multiplied since the application of the poison. He was vexed at the thought that rats frightened him. The thought that same rats who ate his poison now troubled him annoyed him more. He was angry.

The anger jabbed him to consciousness. He was in the room to look for something. The urgent task was to find the purse. He grabbed the handbag. He was forceful, so nearly all the contents fell on the floor. He hissed and jumped at the same time. He wanted to catch the bag in mid-air. The falling bag was faster. He hurt himself.

He took offense at two things: At the unsuccessful attempt. Then at the bag. Why did the handbag make him jump, if it knew it was going to fall to the ground no matter what? ‘This stupid bag of a thing!’ he fumed. He hissed. He remembered he wore no shoes only when his feet touched the floor. He jumped back to bed. The jump was quick, like a snail who withdrew its tentacles. He rubbed his sole for warmth. The floor was cold. The cold spread through the whole body. Anger, like bile, filled his mouth. He squeezed face. He did not know whether to be angry with his forgetfulness or the floor.

At first, he tiptoed on the foot with a sock, holding the other foot in his hand. He hopped towards the handbag, but fell after a hop. He made it to the handbag when he used both feet. He packed the contents, replacing each item carefully in the right compartment.

He was tired. He decided to leave everything where they were and sat in the blue chair. Before long his eyes were heavy. He dosed off. A dream.

A yellowish gold object. It was in the bag before the fall; now few centimeter into the mouth of the bed. Under the bed was dark. It resembled a box. He bent to get it. When he slipped his head under the bed, he saw the box very well. A box for wedding rings…

Asa looked only at him as he struggled to wear her finger the ring. He cringed. He wanted to cry, but he could not. He was not given to cry. It will spoil Asa’s best day. He definitely doesn’t want to do that. Asa will beg-force him to follow instructions of the officiating minister. He imagined her rage…

He looked into her eyes. He saw the sun, high up in the sky. Intense heat. The sun-god must have decided to descend in full wrath. Then a large army. A captain shouted orders. Countenance betrayed no iota of friendliness. He will condole no disobedience…

Asa smiled generously. He saw a grin and a giggle. The bride finally fulfilled a dream, he thought. Still smiling she said: ‘I care so much about you’. The smile got wider. She continued: ‘Now, we are finally in a boat. Together.’ She was still smiling. He understood her message this way: ‘Even if you did not love me enough before, do so now! You dare not leave me now!’ Durotimi hit his leg. A mosquito-bite. He re-positioned his head. He almost woke up. He coughed. A little. He did not wake it was time for the first kiss….

‘You may kiss the bride’, said the minister. She shook her head, like a go-ahead. He bent to kiss her. He seemed to be the only who heard a grumble, then a voice: ‘Don’t hurt my tongue. I will not expect a long kiss. Control your appetite!’ He kissed, not minding the voice. Asa locked her tongue into his, as if she was eating from a honeypot. Wild jubilation. The kiss seemed to last forever. Applause. The roar of excitement continued. The crowd certainly saw what Durotimi did not notice. He turned the ring on his finger. It hurt a little… He remembered his father’s car. Old time…

Once, they brought the car to the mechanic. To check oil level and brake fluid. While the young mechanic worked, a vulcanizer checked the spare tyre in the booth. ‘The tube is giving me problem. I don’t have money for a tubeless spare yet’. The vulcanizer smiled. He had advised Durotimi’s father to buy two tubeless for the rear. He called two apprentices. They set to work at once. An apprentice held a long thick iron in both hands. He hit the tyre tirelessly. The other cursed when the iron hit the wrong place.

It was as though Durotimi was the tyre. He held his breathe when the rod was raised, and jerked when it landed. Like someone with a seizure. The tyre-beating ended. Durotimi did not have to jerk for too long.

Placed in-between two flat surfaces above which a fire burned, Durotimi expected the tube to catch fire. He asked when it would. The apprentices laughed. The vulcanizer came, held the tube up to the sky. He had an air of expertise about him. The apprentice moved with every move their master made; stretched necks to see what their master had observed. When he changed the tube to his other hand, they switched positions, almost involuntarily. The vulcanizer left without a word.

Durotimi heard the vulcanizer talking with his father. He was shouting to be heard. The afternoon prayers blasted from mounted loudspeakers. A pepper-grinder was at his trade. People must have long given up the pepper-grinder was going to change equipment. When filled with pepper, the noise from the grinding machine skyrocketed, shouting seriously.

‘Daddy, we can only patch this tube one more time. We need a new spare, sir’. He nodded and drank on. He had ordered paraga, with his usual mixture. Durotimi always wanted his father to patronize the paraga seller. Each time he gave him palm-wine. A small portion. He gulped it once. The seller’s compliment usually swelled his head. ‘Be sure to be like daddy when you grow up’.

He was back under the bed. Darkness…

He made to bring out the object. He was about to curse, but thought otherwise. He balled his hand into a fist and bit his lip. Durotimi’s head hit the bed base. It felt as though he hit a sandsack. A long time that part of the room was cleaned. He sniffed and saw dust everywhere. He coughed. An attempt to clean his head and face at once only worsened the whole thing. The dust robbed deeper into his eyes. His eyes peppered. He feared for his eyes. He wished he was anywhere but under the bed. The thick dust had built up over time.

Close to the box, he hissed. Before he hissed, he reassured himself his action was not at the object. The sound ended before he touched the box. He held it tight. It must not fall again.

Asa entered. “Stop snoring!” Her voice ended the dream.

The bright smile. The soft face. The thick cloud. Her perfume wore him. He gave in with sheer abandonment. The immediate past was forgotten, as though it never happened. Love. Forgotten times and dreams. Happiness. They kissed. He saw light. She was the light. An aura above her head. Her garment. Sparkling diamond. He saw perfection. Her breasts. The succulent flesh overwhelmed him. He held her palms carefully. He groaned as though in pain. Happy and free. He wept. She hugged him tighter. They felt closer like never before.

They laid in bed, locked still in each other’s arms, he smiled.

By Wind and Awe- Emmanuel Oritseweyinmi

Emmanuel Oritseweyinmi is a writer and an inspirational speaker. He is the author of “I Dare to be a Nigerian: A collection of inspiring stories, plays and anecdotes” available on Amazon We at AhjotNaija are honoured to have him guestblog for us. This is first of many inpsirational series soon to be published.

Emmanuel Oritseweyinmi is a writer and an inspirational speaker. He is the author of “I Dare to be a Nigerian: A collection of inspiring stories, plays and anecdotes” available on Amazon
We at AhjotNaija are honoured to have him guestblog for us. This is first of many inpsirational series soon to be published.

When a child is born into this world, it has no concept of the tone of skin it has. It’s only grateful for what it’s been given. If the world around accepts it, it would learn to love it. Just as I learned to love you—Africa.

Much like a toddler loves it’s mother and the sound of her voice, sonorous was yours when you welcomed the morning sun, singing Makeba’s “Mbumbe”. Or at night when you sang the moon sweet lullabies. The elements seemed to like it, as I remember the stars shone brighter that night when you sang Salif Keita’s “Wamba”.

And at noon when the sun did our corn roast, you sang to the hearing of the king and his proud chiefs, who sat like children about him, the songs of the one who held death in his pouch.

The truth was never bitter in his mouth, so he mixed it with lyrics and made nobility drink it like sweet wine. For he had a hope that our shores would one day welcome peace and that she may find her place among us. So he dared the elements and made music his weapon.

These days you mumble K’naan, wanting more from the dusty foot philosopher. And your brows were arched when you counted the units to Youssou N’dour’s wordcraft.

I really can’t put my finger on what your reaction would be if you heard what’s being aired on the radio these days. It’s either you’re impressed or sorely disappointed. I pray it’s not the latter. Afterall, we do have some songs that mother and child can dance to. Songs that make them jolly, bringing back good memories, they tell us about what we can have & become. The old days were good, but the future looks brighter. I see the light on.

And one day, when my hair glimmers like the sun when it sets, I should be able to sing my little ones a song from Africa, woven like fine tapestry, soothing to sour minds & uplifting to wary travelers from across the five oceans, brought in by the wind and awe to trade with Mr Black and Miss Beautiful.

LiterarySaturday(LS): General and The House

General was known for his scandalous outbursts. When he called press conference, the country was heightened. Journalists held their breathe to grasp every word. He kindled (inter-)national interest. His talks tilted political balance in the land.

It did in the last general election. He said the election would be a do-or-die-affair. His support for the Party of the People (POP) was unshakable. Some analysts and sympathizers maintained he had been misquoted. “Journalists are scrupulous, you know”, they said.

The people knew better. General did not make empty threat. He neither confirmed he misspoke nor denied the statement. Subsequently, the POP candidate won with a landslide.

Once, he called another General a fool. His anger was at bursting seams, when the rage in him spoke, ‘Bangadi is a greater fool. Indeed!’. The press conference ended. He had just generated another headliner; it was a counter-response. Apparently, General was not unconscious of the implication of his word-choices.

Bangadi suddenly became notorious for celebrating his 70th birthday every year. Overtime, he successfully confused the people’s memory. General insulted Bangadi exactly for this reason.

Bangadi had announced his intention to celebrate once again his 70th birthday. More curious: Bangadi was, until he turned 70, not known to be particularly interested in celebrations.

General belled the cat. He spoke to the confusion, when journalists asked if he had anything to say to Bangadi on the occasion of his birthday.

For the celebration, the weather will be especially good, forecast the forecasters. The sun was expected to shine. It might be windy, but moderately so. Rain was expected to fall in an amount that will appropriately compensate.

So, like the weather, journalists expected a goodwill message from General. The request infuriated him. He was quick to hide annoyance though. He smiled. Brightly. “I am unaware Bangadi is still 70. He celebrated his 70th birthday once.” If General had stopped at that, that certainly would be fine. He went on, “I shall not be bamboozled by a confused Bangadi. I am sure he did not know when he was born.”

Gbam! The next scandal headliner was born! The Peoples’ Pamphlet read: ‘A Confused General cannot Bamboozle me’. Another read: ‘Birthday General in Confusion’. The headline of the Daily Nuggets was less discreet. It referenced General with his nickname: ‘Ugly-Face refused Bamboozling!’ Ugly-Face was the name given General by the extremely poor in the land.

If Bangadi knew better, he would have kept to himself. But one would understand his predicament. After all, he was a General too. Bangadi, in a response to General, was quoted to have said ‘a fool at 70 is a fool forever!’

Journalists went to the Villa for a follow-up comment.

General cleared throat and started, ‘Gentle(wo)men, I thank you for your diligence and special interest in this matter. Clearly, I was right to call Bangadi a fool. I did not elaborate on his foolishness. My omission needs no correction. Bangadi took it upon himself to tell us how foolish he is!’

The journalists busily documented every word.

General continued, ‘We know I am much beyond 70. The gods of the land is graciously kind to me in matters of age and wisdom. Bangadi is an insomnia sufferer. If he indeed referred to me in his statement, he must be insane!

The saga of the two generals went on for weeks. Caricatures showed both men in boxers punching each other below belts. It gave hungry people in the land a reason to laugh again.

In the light of previous experiences, when it appeared in the news that General outspokenly referred to members of the House of Representative as “A mad people in a house of disrepute, bastard, certificate forgers and hypocritical moral preachers, who climbed a mole and gasped for air as though they disembarked from a mountain”, confusion overtook the land.

Tension was high. Especially in the House of Representatives. The people followed the news for more.

The senators were first to catch in on the outburst. A long lost chance! They proudly pointed out members of the lower chamber were irresponsible and less-trustworthy. Although General and the Senate hardly agreed on anything, they released a statement, which ended with ‘They are rascals like he called them!’

Rascal was written in bold with a footnote showing they borrowed it.

Actually, disputes between both chambers had reached escalating heights. Bills read and unanimously voted in the House met their Waterloo in the Senate. Without any justifiable consideration.

Understandably, the signal from the Senate did not go unnoticed. The House did not bother to accept anything from the senate. There was obviously a power tussle.

More curious however was the rumor that refused to go away. The leadership of both chambers had in one meeting attacked themselves with amulets and charms. The chief whip debunked the rumor. He claimed it was a fabrication of fantasy, from those bent on discrediting the honorable leadership of the House and Senate.

He could however not explain that Honorable Depe died the same day. He ran out of the parliamentary complex. He collapsed, but not before he circled round a spot, embracing an invisible object. He held his head, shouted for help and eventually collapsed. He had gasped for air shortly after the collapse. Then he died. His death was strange. Chief Depe’s theatrical manifestation before his death was even stranger.

In a desperate attempt to redeem what was left of the image of the House, the speaker alongside four members headed to the Villa. A Redemption Committee was born!

The reception was cold. General, who normally wasted no time in expressing displeasure swiftly, did not behave differently. He hit the hammer on the head. “Honorable Farouki demanded and collected 600 billion Naira from Chief Sanbe, CEO of Sanbe Standard Oil and Company (SSOC). He promised to exempt SSOC from the process. Chief Sanbe showed irrefutable evidences. His claims were not mere wind chasing accusations”.

General demanded that the issue be attended to immediately and every indicted members be brought to book.

Honorable Farouki was the Committee Chairman for NIEM- National Integrity and Ethical Matters. SSOC and some other oil companies were accused of corruption.

General was not generous in trust. He held meetings with a person at a time. He wanted to avoid deceit and get out as much truth as possible. He recapped one party’s talk with different coloration. That way, the other party gave out more.

Although the men came out to report of a successful meeting, the truth was, they had been subjected to rounds of interrogation. General wanted to get to the root of the scandal. When he spoke with the speaker, he demanded, “I want nothing but the truth.”

He was greatly disturbed. He was convinced the accused Honorable could not have done the deal all alone. He strongly doubted the reports in the news.

At the end of the behind-closed-door meeting, the speaker denounced Honorable Farouki before a press conference. “He is an outcast, his unseemly behavior has brought the name of the House into disrepute.”

He wondered aloud there was a Farouki in the House who played so dirty. “He is a he-goat!”, he fumed. “Honorable Farouki’s stinking smell will spread, even if bathed in  strong perfume of oriental qualities. A shameless man, bent on contaminating the good trust the people gave the House.” He declared loudly, “No one shall dampen our spirit, not even Farouki!”.

“The greedy thief has bitten more than he can chew this time.”, was the only thing General added. He was tempted to curse, but restrained himself. He blessed the speaker’s rage with a nod.

An Honorable spoke on behalf of the three, “Honorable Farouki has shown us who he is. He must be dealt with.” He expressed solidarity with General and the House at large.

The men did not make any strikingly different confession. General’s worries skyrocketed; it went from small to big. The trouble was, the longer the scandal stayed in the news, the more names mentioned, then the lesser the chance to secure a large chunk of the money. Consequently, Honorable Farouki would have more palms to rub.

Every individual mentioned must be invited by the committee. Honorable Farouki must understandably buy support. An empty mouth noised differently.

General knew intuitively these visitors talked no truth. He needed to act faster to get the whole truth before he lost too much. At once he invited Honorable Farouki. He started on an extremely friendly note. He sounded near-fatherly.

“Honorable, I know all these things are not true. Only you and I know the truth. Tell me nothing but the truth. I am not a bad person. I will not hear only a side of a story to conclude that you are corrupt. Please do not mind the speaker and his men. He called you a bastard. I know he is twice a bastard himself. I neither believe his story nor do I trust his men. Their deceit followed them as they left me. Please tell me the truth…”.

With this preamble, Honorable Farouki knew a deal was in sight. He decided to tell his own version of the truth. He sighed, cough-covered his mouth, then began in a visibly low voice.

“In truth, I collected money from Chief Sanbe. Not only did I collect from him, there were other five companies who gave generously. They wanted a manipulation of the committee report”.

When he summarily said he collected 300 trillion Naira, General released a not-too-loud Ha! His face wrinkled and the waist pain returned. He knew at once that this version of Honorable Farouki’s story, especially the amount of money involved, was a part of the whole truth. Honorable Farouki placed a finger on his tongue and pointed to the ceiling before he announced the sum he collected. “God is my witness”, he finished.

General was dead-sure the money was definitely thrice the amount declared. He knew he was dealing with an hardened crook, so he did not push him too hard. Honorable Farouki was not going to divulge more information.

They struck a deal. He was to pay half the money into General’s company account as payment for purchase of animal feed.

“Be good to the members of the Redemption Committee. See to it that you distort the truth. As much as possible. Before the committee and thereafter.” Both men smiled. General needed not to speak with all his mouth.

Honorable Farouki acted to script. Upon reading news of his visit in the papers, he called a press conference. He outspokenly denied all accusations. His words were carefully chosen. He expressed shock over the speaker’s outburst, which spoke so despicably of his personality. “I have never met Chief Sanbe nor his representative. How could I have collected money from the businessman without contact?!” he asked.

He threw tantrums here and there, then ended the conference. He entertained no questions. Journalists reported the sensational self-defense. More questions surfaced. Faroukigate became messier.

Honorable Farouki had expected this dimension. He was indescribably happy the script was achieving desired results. Time for the next strategy.

Not a press conference. It was the internet. Another rounds of claims. His special adviser signed the release. It confirmed he actually met with SSOC outside scheduled committee meetings, apologized for the mis-statement. The Honorable’s appointment-scheduler was responsible for the half-truth fed to the public in the press conference. He has since been relieved of his job for negligence. Honorable Farouki maintained he collected no money.

Reactions could not be better predicted. Even the Peoples’ Pamphlet made a cover-story. The Daily Nuggets editorial submission on the series of distorted claims by the Honorable was bitingly sincere. The editorial ended with a recommendation: “The hallucinating politician needs some brain-jabs.”

Three days before the Redemption Committee meeting, Honorable Farouki pulled the next string. He confirmed the collection of 30 million Naira from the businessman. The money was shared among committee members. The bribery was adequately reported to KAMOLACA, the anti-corruption agency. He intended to nail SSOC with this evidence.

Hours after his statement, KAMOLACA denied openly it was ever informed. Also, in a joint statement, the accused members declared: “Our corrupt chairman should please handle this madness all alone. We received neither money nor bribe of any form from Honorable Farouki.”

Claims and counter-claims went on for weeks without end, until the Redemption Committee submitted its report to the House. The speaker read the 150 page document on the floor of the House.

Honorable Farouki was acquitted of wrong-doing. He acted in accordance with the constitution and in good faith. The report was of the opinion that the accusation was taken out of proportion. The sensational reporting did not help. It was nothing so serious.

For damage done to the image and personality of Honorable Farouki, a compensation package in monetary term was recommended. He was advised to sue Chief Sanbe, SSOC and even the media houses, if he so wished.

Chief Sanbe was to pay 900 billion Naira to National Treasury because he handled a delicate matter too carelessly. A public apology to the House was demanded.

The deafening ovation ignored an Honorable who was about to interrupt. The ovation went wilder when the speaker said, “SSOC played to the gallery and became the victim of its naked dance of shame.” He declared confidently, “The task of redemption has just started!”

More ovation.

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